Thank Cod it's Fryday: The Brown Bottle
In this series, we're trying out some of the city's most popular fish fries. You'll find commentary, pro tips and ratings of the three staples of a classic Wisconsin fry: namely the fish, the potato pancakes, and the classic Wisconsin style brandy old fashioned. View all fish fry reviews here.
The Brown Bottle
221 W. Galena St.
Originally a gathering place for visitors who came to the Schlitz Brewery for tours, The Brown Bottle has a history as a tavern and eating hall that dates back to 1938. Today, its updated old world digs hearken to the past with details like antler-laden chandeliers and rustic wooden paneling, while its menu reflects a more modern pub style, featuring classic favorites like sandwiches and burgers along with comfort food classics like macaroni and cheese.
Among popular menu options (and for good reason) is the Friday fish fry, which is available every Friday for both lunch and dinner. Options include Schlitz beer-battered cod ($11.95), baked cod ($12.95) or cornmeal crusted perch ($13.95), each of which is served with french fries (potato pancakes, house salad or sweet potato fries are available for an additional $1), coleslaw, tartar sauce and rye bread.
My perch plate included three butterflied fillets of perched that are dredged in a light, very crunchy cornmeal breading, which adhered well to the flavorful, flaky fish. I enjoyed the texture, though I did find myself thinking that the breading could have used just a bit more seasoning to really make it pop.
On the other hand, a generous portion of three cod loins came coated in a light, flaky beer batter. The fish is exceedingly moist, and there was good flavor to the batter, including a very subtle hint of beer.
It wasn't a deal breaker, since the fish was very good, but I found the presentation to be a bit awkward. Each fish fry came uniquely presented in a lined wire basket. From a visual perspective, it's clever and seems efficient; however, I had a bit of trouble keeping the paper lining intact, as my fork kept threatening to poke through the liner as I ate.
The potato pancakes
Until this week, I've not had a fish fry where the potato pancakes outshone the fish. But it happened at The Brown Bottle. Their pancakes, which come in sets of three, are petite (maybe 3-4 inches across), but they are loaded with light, flaky potato goodness. The exterior is crisp and brown, with an interior that's light and tender. Potatoes are grated finely, giving the cakes a nice texture that's not at all pasty or dense. They weren't over-salted (as so many are), and a hint of onion rounded out the flavor of the potatoes nicely. In fact, I'd come back again and again just to eat these delicious little gems.
The old fashioned
The Brown Bottle also serves up a great classic old fashioned. It was sweet (but not cloyingly so) with a nice balanced flavor. A first sip offered up a tiny trace of sugar, leading me to believe the cocktail was built using classic muddling technique, complete with a sugar cube. The drink wasn't garnished, but it did include a thin orange slice and muddled cherry in the glass.
Got suggestions for our next fish fry? Email email@example.com with your suggestions. Suggested fish fry menus must include lake fish (walleye, perch), potato pancakes and a stellar old fashioned.
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